Editorials

Initial STAAR results out, educators are hopping mad

THE EDITORIAL BOARD

Texas public school students take STAAR tests at various times during each year’s spring semester.
Texas public school students take STAAR tests at various times during each year’s spring semester. Special to the S-T

Initial results from this year’s STAAR tests released Friday by the Texas Education Agency showed mixed results for fifth- and eighth-graders.

But so many things have gone wrong with the testing system this year that a group of 48 superintendents from Houston-area school districts has told TEA they’d give that entire system an “F.”

The State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, or STAAR, results issued Friday were for fifth- and eighth-grade math and reading tests administered in March.

Students in those grades must pass the reading and math tests to be promoted to the next grade. They can retake the tests in May and June. After that, their parents can appeal to a school committee that they should be promoted without passing STAAR.

Seventy-five percent of fifth-graders passed this year’s standard STAAR reading tests. That’s down 3 percentage points from last year. On the standard math test, 79 percent of fifth-graders passed, the same as last year.

In eighth grade, 82 percent passed the standard reading test, up 4 percentage points from 2015. Seventy-three percent passed the math test, down 2 percentage points.

Specialized tests for Spanish-speakers and students with disabilities brought down the overall scores by 1 to 3 percentage points except in eighth-grade reading, which was up 3 percentage points.

The Dallas Morning News reported Thursday that the Houston-area superintendents had sent a letter to Education Commissioner Mike Morath expressing “a lack of confidence in the entire testing system” because of problems this year.

The 94 problems they cited ranged from numerous errors in delivery of testing materials, to a computer glitch that erased answers on some tests taken by special education students, to a test-day alert that students should leave a question blank on the high school English I end-of-course exam because it had no correct answer.

The superintendents referred to plans for assigning A-F performance grades to schools and districts beginning next year.

“If we apply the same logic to our current testing system, then it could be argued that it should earn a letter grade of F,” the letter said.

We haven’t heard the end of this.

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